December 10, 2019

County to prepare timeline for ’20 wind talks

Officials pause on wind issue | County to focus, prepare timeline for 2020 talks | By Ray Scherer | News-Press NOW | St. Joseph News-Press | Dec 9, 2019 |

County officials remain on a temporary pause from focusing on the possible entry of a wind energy project near St. Joseph, but they intend to seek input from concerned residents.

Eastern Buchanan County could become the site for a collection of energy-gathering wind turbines, depending on the interest of a Florida company, NextEra Energy, in locating such a facility there.

However, a group of residents has formed an organization around resistance to the potential of wind turbines locating in their rural neighborhoods. The group, Friends of Buchanan County, recently formalized its intent to oppose the turbines and is seeking petition signatures that seek a one-mile property setback cushioning their residences from the units.

The Buchanan County Planning and Zoning Commission has been reviewing a proposed ordinance that would regulate the presence of a wind farm in the St. Joseph area. The commission normally meets the second Wednesday of each month, but for the second consecutive time it has cancelled its session due to lack of agenda items.

Presiding Commissioner Lee Sawyer said the lack of activity on wind issues does not mean they have taken a permanent back burner in deliberations. He said the topic has come up in recent commission sessions at the courthouse.

“We don’t have anything scheduled,” he said. “But we hope to have, by the first of the year, a timeline.”

Sawyer said the commission wants to schedule public hearings to take comment on the draft ordinance, which now has a second version. He added the county is communicating with the Friends group.

“They’ve already reached out to us,” he said. “We know where they stand.”

He outlined steps designed to lead up to the acceptance of public input early next year.

“We will continue to look at the different factors,” Sawyer said. “We’ve talked to a lot of people, obviously. We will re-engage the (planning and zoning) commission. … We feel like after the first of the year, we’d like to figure out the best path forward.”

An effort to arrange tours of NextEra’s turbines in DeKalb County for the board members has apparently failed to produce an agreement. Sawyer said attorneys had been discussing ways to set up the tours, but to no avail.

Eastern District Commissioner Scott Burnham told News-Press NOW part of the problem in setting up the tours for board is staying within the parameters of Missouri’s Open Meetings Law, ensuring the viewings aren’t seen as an opportunity for the members to converse on the ordinance.

“That’s a bit of a challenge,” Burnham said. “I know that’s been part of the hurdle.”

He added the county is not facing any particular deadlines regarding a decision on the ordinance.

“We are taking our time, trying to be careful,” he said.

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